The quest for the Holy "all-screen" Grail of phone design began with thinning out the top and bottom display bezels, then came the iPhone X's Notch Almighty
, but in 2018 phone makers strayed far away from the beaten path leaving us with real handsets you can touch and buy that are indeed "all-screen" at the front.
In the process, there were smaller notches, dewdrop designs, pop-up cameras, and even the sliders marked their return for the industry to finally settle on the hole-in-display design paradigm which is at least mostly centered now.
This allowed Samsung and other phone makers' handsets to break the 90% screen-to-body ratio barrier northwards and brought us the current frontal phone design that will very soon be indeed "all-screen" - you know, the rumored Galaxy Z Fold 3 under-display selfie camera
and whatnot. That's Androids, what about iPhones?
Face ID and Touch ID to merge and submerge
In the meantime, what did Apple do since the iPhone X
? That's right, absolutely nothing. The company is apparently recognizing that it scored own goal by providing the Face ID function a biometric exclusivity, so not only is it stuck with the notch for the last four iPhone generations but the pandemic's mandates caught it by surprise and it had to introduce stopgap measures to let you unlock your own iPhone with a mask on
Apple would never admit it, but it is following the phone design and specifications trends, and simply grabs what makes sense and what it thinks iPhone users would appreciate without many scruples. For example, Apple was just granted a patent approval
to move every conceivable Face ID and Touch ID component under the cover of an OLED display.
Embodiments of the systems, devices, methods, and apparatus described in the present disclosure are directed to under-display optical transmission, reception, and/or sensing. In accordance with described techniques, an optical transmitter, optical receiver, optical transceiver, or multiple optical transmitters, receivers and/or transceivers may be positioned behind a device's display, and light may be transmitted or received through translucent apertures extending from a front surface to a back surface of a display stack of the device. In this manner, an optical transmitter, receiver, or sensor may transmit or receive "through" a display. The optical transmitter, receiver, or sensor may opportunistically transmit or receive light through available translucent apertures in the display stack, or the display stack may be configured to provide translucent apertures in a deterministic pattern. When an optical transmitter, receiver, or sensor is positioned under a device's display, a portion of the device's display surface does not have to be reserved for the optical transmitter, receiver, or sensor, and in some cases the size of the device's display may be increased.
Not only that but Apple also talks about "a method of sensing a proximity of an object to a device having a light-emitting display is described. The method may include receiving light through a translucent aperture in a display surface of the light-emitting display; collimating the received light; condensing the collimated received light toward an optical receiver; quantifying an output of the optical receiver; and correlating the quantified output of the optical receiver to the proximity of the object to the device. In some embodiments, the translucent aperture may be a first translucent aperture, and the method may also include emitting light from an optical transmitter; collimating the emitted light; and focusing the collimated emitted light toward a second translucent aperture in the display surface. In some embodiments, the emitted light may be focused and/or re-imaged to shape the light in a far-field."
All of these components combined sound suspiciously like the four elements of the Face ID kit
that is currently housed in the iPhone's top bezel cutout, and it is obvious that Apple is actively looking for ways to slip them under the screens of its future iPhones. How future? Well, we already learned that the technology won't be ready for the iPhone 13
which will only have slightly miniaturized versions of the current Face ID components, hence a bit more compact notch.
iPhone 15 may be the first modern iPhone without a notch
There won't be an "all-screen" iPhone 14 either
, even though Apple is reportedly going to advance towards that goal with it by shrinking the notch even further, perhaps by tucking at least some of the components under the display. The iPhone 14, however, will allegedly have both face recognition and in-screen fingerprint reader, for what we thought will be the ultimate Face ID meets Touch ID design
Well, the ultimate design according to Apple's fresh patent is an all-screen iPhone that will have all biometric and front camera components peeping behind an OLED display panel, and Apple has plenty of time to figure it out. We hope that the first truly all-screen handset of Apple will be the iPhone 15
at the latest, just like storied analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts, as by that time Samsung and other Androids will have a two-year headstart on under-display cameras and a four year one on in-screen finger scanners.
On the other hand, Apple has proven that being late with a technology doesn't affect its iPhone sales at all, and its customers are usually happy to wait until Apple decides that a tech that many Androids have had for a while has matured and become cheap enough for it to employ on iPhones, too. Such was the case with OLED screens and 5G connectivity, so Apple securing a patent for under-display everything doesn't mean that it will be in a hurry to use it. What do you think?